President-elect Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that Steven Mnuchin, the Trump campaign’s national finance chairman, will be his pick to lead the Treasury Department, a decision that should leave constitutional conservatives very concerned.
Mnuchin worked for 17 years at Goldman Sachs as the company’s “chief information officer.” He left the company in 2002 to work for a friend’s hedge fund, a position he held for only a short period before moving on to become CEO of George Soros-backed SFM Capital Management. After working for Soros for less than a year, he co-founded his own business, Dune Capital, with several former colleagues from Goldman Sachs.
Mnuchin’s Dune Capital has been very profitable, but his success has not been limited to Wall Street. While at Dune, Mnuchin co-financed a number of movies for 20th Century Fox, including far-left director James Cameron’s "Avatar" and recent blockbuster "Suicide Squad." Mnuchin has been listed on more than 30 films as a “producer.”
On their own, Mnuchin’s connections to Hollywood and George Soros make him a strange pick for a top-level Cabinet position in a Republican administration, but his family’s long history of funding far-left Democrats makes the decision downright frightening.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, Steven Mnuchin has donated more than $96,000 to political candidates, the vast majority of which went to Democrats and left-wing organizations, such as the League of Conservation Voters. Mnuchin gave at least $4,000 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2004, and he’s donated more than $8,000 to Hillary Clinton’s various campaigns. Mnuchin also gave $10,000, his largest single donation listed on the FEC website, to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2004.
Mnuchin’s donations are just the tip of the iceberg. The entire Mnuchin family has been donating significant funds to Democratic Party candidates since the late 1990s. As I mentioned in a recent report for the Washington Examiner, FEC filings show his immediate family members — his father, Robert Mnuchin, his mother, Adriana, and his brother, Alan, and his spouse — have given more than $2 million to political campaigns since 1997, the overwhelming majority of which went to Democrats, including to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and former Democratic Party presidential candidate John Edwards.
Not only is the selection of Mnuchin hypocritical for a candidate who has promised to “drain the swamp,” it seems to contradict Trump’s numerous warnings made throughout his presidential campaign about the dangers of being tied too closely to Wall Street. Trump accused Hillary Clinton of bias on numerous occasions for her Wall Street connections, and he was also highly critical of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz throughout the GOP primaries. “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs,” Trump said of Cruz, whose wife used to work for Goldman Sachs. “They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”
As head of the Treasury Department, Mnuchin would exercise significant power and influence over the U.S. economy. Among other responsibilities, according to Treasury’s website:
The Department of the Treasury operates and maintains systems that are critical to the nation’s financial infrastructure, such as the production of coin and currency, the disbursement of payments to the American public, revenue collection, and the borrowing of funds necessary to run the federal government. The Department works with other federal agencies, foreign governments, and international financial institutions to encourage global economic growth, raise standards of living, and to the extent possible, predict and prevent economic and financial crises.
Mnuchin’s ability to navigate America’s financial system is undeniable, and it’s not unheard of for a candidate’s top fundraiser to be granted important roles in administrations after a campaign victory. However, if Trump’s aim is to surround himself with people who are committed to protecting liberty and exercising fiscal responsibility, it’s difficult to understand why he’d choose to put control of the Treasury Department under Mnuchin, a man with long-standing connections and relationships to people like George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and many others who have actively worked to insert government into every nook and crevice of the nation’s economy. That is, of course, unless the reason he was chosen has nothing to do with his alleged conservative policy positions and everything to do with his personal relationship to Trump. The two men have run in the same New York City/Hollywood circles for decades, so it’s not a surprise they know and even trust one another.
Regardless of the reasons behind his selection, it’s important for limited government people to watch carefully the actions taken by the Treasury Department, as well as all executive agencies, over the next four years to ensure conservative principles are guiding public policy, a promise Trump made throughout his run for office.
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is executive editor of The Heartland Institute.